Press Releases Belgian Presidency: Trade Ministers Discuss WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference at Informal Meeting in Brussels

Belgian Presidency: Trade Ministers Discuss WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference at Informal Meeting in Brussels

The informal meeting of trade ministers took place on 22-23 January 2024, in Brussels. Its main objective was the preparation of the thirteenth Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the World Trade Organization, to be held in Abu Dhabi from 26 to 29 February 2024. The EU Trade Ministers also discussed the Open Strategic Autonomy, and the trade issues under discussion at the European Parliament ahead of the European elections.

The event featured an opening reception and dinner on 22 January, including a musical performance by An Pierlé, and a keynote address by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General of the WTO. Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis of the European Commission as well as several Ministers also presented their views.

The first working session on 23 January focused on the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13), which will take place in Abu Dhabi from 26-29 February, 2024. On the basis of the briefing of EVP Dombrovskis, the Ministers discussed the EU priorities as well as the possible outcomes of MC13. The exchanges focused on a necessary dispute settlement reform, industrial subsidies, e-commerce as well as fisheries and agriculture. 5 weeks ahead of the conference, the Ministers also discussed coordination and outreach.

The second working session focused on Open Strategic Autonomy, a horizontal priority of the Belgian Presidency and a topic in which EU trade policy has a vital part to play by strengthening the Union’s resilience and competitiveness, and by ensuring a level playing field. It helps underpin a strong role for the EU in the world, with a focus on openness, sustainability and assertiveness: openness as the bedrock of our prosperity, sustainability to contribute to our net-zero ambitions, and assertiveness to empower us to deal with growing risks in a rapidly changing environment, while safeguarding our values and interests

During this working session, EVP Dombrovskis briefed the EU Trade Ministers on the upcoming economic security proposals to be presented by the Commission tomorrow, 24 January, and the Ministers discussed, among other things, the concrete needs for the green and digital transition and the main challenges and risks for the EU’s Open Strategic Autonomy when it comes to trade, the trade instruments at disposal and the role of the private sector, in particular SMEs, in our economic security strategy. Under AOB, exchanges took place regarding the situation in the Red Sea and its impact on international trade.

After the two working sessions, Minister Lahbib gave the floor to Chairman Bernd Lange of the Committee on International Trade (INTA) of the European Parliament to give an overview of the trade issues under discussion ahead of the European elections. Afterwards, an exchange of views took place with the EU Trade Ministers and the European Commission.

Finally, to close the informal meeting of trade ministers, Minister Lahbib and Executive Vice President Dombrovskis held a Press Conference.

For more information on the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference, please visit the official website: WTO | Thirteenth WTO Ministerial Conference

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